Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tales from the Pull-List

Hi there. I hit a grouchy patch for awhile, which corresponded with a general belt-tightening and pull-list shaving. Thinking too precisely about money puts me a foul mood, which I typically seek to allay by setting up a variety of ascetic regimes. These are pleasing for awhile, but then I rebel and gorge myself on cake and comics. ( I know—what vices! ) And I feel better: restored and human. Albeit penniless. But that's what credit is for.  And so, I’ve been fattening my pull-list again.

Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps. were sustaining me during the lean months, and they are better than ever. The multi-colored lanterns and the war of light are fundamentally silly, but they are being handled so deftly—and wrung for such great melodrama—by Johns and Tomasi that it hardly matters. Johns has an eye for locating the contours of myth within any comic book cliché, and his riff on the color spectrum works splendidly, despite its (so far) somewhat goofy conflation of metaphysical diffraction (the splitting of the “white light” into colors by the “darkness”) with an arbitrary assortment of affects. Like all of Johns’s plotting, the whole event—from the Lovecraftian design of the various corps. to the Biblical allusiveness of the action and the moral tenor of the allegory—seems like a semi-profane Sunday School lesson, which is precisely why I like it. It doesn’t hurt that the entire series of linked books is gorgeously illustrated (and in a relatively consistent style no less) by Ivan Reis, Doug Mahnke, and Patrick Gleason.

Batman and Robin is my favorite kind of Grant Morrison, and if any character needed a little freshening, it’s Batman. Having Dick assume the cowl was the best thing DC could have done to make the “death” of Batman into something more than a stunt. It completely reinvigorates the icon in a way that doesn’t seem arbitrary, and having Morrison helm it has brought a kind of perverse energy to the series that I’ve felt missing from Batman for a long time. The problem with Batman’s rogues’ gallery for me has long been that none of them are scary anymore, if they ever were. Fear requires a certain amount of novelty, and Morrison is good at inventing frightening things. I found Professor Pyg and his “Dollies” genuinely creep-inducing. Good. More of that, please.

For the whimsically depraved (which means most of us, I would assume), Secret Six is a gem of a series that has improved since it began. It remains superior to Simone’s still-enjoyable Wonder Woman, though I’m not quite sure why. The Silver Banshee revelation had the quality of all great reveals: the it-was-so-obvious-why-didn’t-I-think-of-that? factor. And the Scandal/Bane pairing is sentimental drivel and insanely hot all at once. (So of course I love it.)

And then there’s the new Fantastic Four creative team of Jonathan Hickman and my fanboy crush, Dale Eaglesham. Ah, that logo. I’ve been obsessed with it for a week now at least. They’re laying it on pretty thick—the nostalgia trip, I mean. Eaglesham is of course the go-to guy for Norman Rockwellizing your world’s greatest comics magazine. But throw in the Perez-era Fantastic Four logo to boot and you’ve basically lobotomized Mama Roeg’s little boy. He’s in the corner, rocking and hugging himself, crooning softly, wrapped in the cloak time, a far-away smile faintly on his lips as he slips back, fatally, into that golden year, 1977…

I pulled myself out of my fugue state long enough to give Adventure Comics a try—and I have to admit, it is nicely done. I’m not particularly interested in Superboy, but the Legion “second feature” has whetted my appetite for Paul Levitz’s return to the Legion.

Those have been the highlights for me lately, though I have also been enjoying The War of Kings over in Marvel’s space books. Anything space-faring drawn by Paul Pelletier is fine by me. I wish I were enjoying the Titans and Outsiders books more. The best of the bunch is Teen Titans, which everyone else seems to hate, but which, for me, has at least developed an aesthetic and a reasonably interesting team. Tomasi’s Outsiders has been a disappointment so far, primarily because it is too focused on missions and not enough on the Outsiders as people outside of the costumes. It hardly needs saying that the adult Titans book is nearly unreadable. Please fix it, DC. (Or perhaps that is what James Robinson is doing with his new JLA. I’m curious about that development…) Finally, I’m reserving judgment of JSA, but, like many, I’m skeptical that anyone can follow Johns on this book, and so far, Willingham has not done anything to make me feel otherwise.

To be continued.


plok said...

Oh no, embarrassingly I have very little to say about any of these! I am not sure I trust ANYBODY on FF anymore, which is probably not fair of me...if there's an unkillable superhero comic design, it is probably the FF, but all the nostalgia/realism thing of the last few years seems to me such an extraordinarily poor launchpad for future FF stories that it really makes me feel like, could a new creative team make a go of it, if they're burdened by all those recently-received notions of what makes the FF work?

Batman and Robin, though...I haven't yet picked up #4, but so far I'm just astonished: here is a Batman comic you could give to anybody, even me.

Jim Roeg said...

plok - I totally know what you mean about recent attempts on the FF, but I just picked up the second issue of the Hickman/Eaglesham collaboration, and it is lovely. Is there a future in it? Based on what I've seen so far, I think...why not? For me, it's all in the execution. Their focus has been on Reed's megalomania, as seen through the lens of Reed and Sue's marriage. Not new ideas, obvioulsy, but thoughtfully done and exquisitely drawn. And, yes, yay B&R!

plok said...

well, I don't want to say I think there's no way to expose failings in Reed, though the "megalomania" stuff is something I find almost physically tiring, the anti-intellectualism of it is gruesomely cynical, and I think you can extract more worrisome ideas about Bendis and Millar's politics from that character change they made stick than you can from anything else they've done together or seperately...

...Which is to say: that's hard to do, that extracting ideas about people's politics from what they've written, at the best of times...and it's dangerous to try it, too. But I think it possible to entertain the notion the Reed characterization constitutes a genuine clue to some of their own personal attitudes.

But, as I was saying -- I can think of a couple interesting things to do with Reed in this respect too, that a Seventies FF fan ought to appreciate: like, notice that when Ben loses his powers, Johnny or Sue know, Reed's totally fine with it! Here, I'll build you a suit...oh, by the way I hired Luke Cage to pinch-hit for you...he's not too sympathetic. But when it happens to him...! Yeah, he needs this more than they do, but no one ever notices that. So, there's probably an interesting complex there, straight out of Thomas and Wolfman...if anyone wanted to explore it, but somehow I sense it's something else they want to explore, something not at all implicit in the character's history or construction, and that bugs me.

However, maybe I am just being sour about it!

Jim Roeg said...

Haha! Not sour, plok. Just perceptive--much more than me! I'd love to read your FF (why aren't you writing for Marvel???). But the sad truth is that I have so little time to read purely for pleasure, and, when I do, my concentration is so shot, that I'm just not as reflective or choosy as I once was. In Hickman's favour, though, his take on "megalomania" might not be all that far removed from what you are describing... Time will tell!

I didn't read Millar's run on FF because I've mostly disliked everything of his that I've read. Bendis is a trickier case. I do enjoy his writing, but only in small or concentrated doses. His comics ultimately depress me, so I don't follow them very religiously.

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plok said...

Thanks, Eddy.

Oddly enough the verification code here is "herpi".

Paging Rupert Sheldrake.

plok said...

Oh dear...once you delete those pieces of spam, Jim, my last comment will be indecipherable.

Better delete it, too!

Uh...and this one as well, I guess...

Verification code is "press". I swear Sheldrake may be right; this is happening to me a lot lately.

By the way we're getting the Comic Strip Serializer band back together, man.

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